In this recent topic over at Dhamma Wheel...
Thought-provoking new blog
... we were introduced to a blog that used some thought-provoking classifications for different types of Buddhists - http://speculativenonbuddhism.wordpress.com/categories/ - split by their approach to understanding and discussing the Dhamma, rather than necessarily by their tradition.
As a point of discussion, what do you think of the following categories.... and as a bit of an ice-breaker, there's a poll for you to nominate which ones (if any) you think best classifies your approach. In keeping with the quote below, I've allowed up to four selections per voter.
Speculative Non-Buddhism wrote:The categories that I am working with–and of course invite you to work with as well–are as follows. Please bear two points in mind. First, my reason for using categories like these is to capture basic rhetorical thrusts in Buddhist teaching and writing. I am interested in teasing out the strategies and approaches taken in the contemporary discourse on Buddhism. Giving names to these approaches is an attempt bring some clarity and differentiation to the material. Second, these categories are not in any way derisive (i.e., categorization is not name-calling). I, personally, value certain approaches over others. To be honest, I do not respect all equally. Some, I feel, are damaging to human beings. In other words, like you, I have my biases and opinions. But, the point to this categorization is to name and illuminate and understand, not to castigate. That being said, let’s permit a range of emotions and tones to manifest. Let’s range from bland to spicy, as fits the dish being served up. Can we do so in obeisance to philosophia, love of wisdom? The categories:
Accommodationists. Writers, teachers, etc., in this vein know better, but let be. That is, their rhetoric suggests avenues of critique or even contradiction; yet, they leave these pathways unexplored. Why? In order to preserve the Buddhist status quo.
Apologists. For whatever reasons, these figures seek to have Buddhist teachings, theories, practices, etc., come out on top. Thus, they act in defense of Buddhism. Quite often, they must resort to logical contortions and, more seriously, omission of contrary evidence. But not always, of course; sometimes they do indeed correct misunderstandings and misrepresentations.
Comparativists. They have proficient knowledge of other teachings and systems, as well as a robust interest in the Buddhist versions of whatever it is they are treating. And they use this knowledge to illuminate via contrasts and comparisons.
Constructivists. They seek effective application of Buddhist teachings and practices, yet often recognize the need for adaptation and innovation. Such writers and teachers are less concerned with upholding tradition than with finding new uses.
Critics. They offer insightful queries, which, given the nature of criticism, often threaten fissure. They are not concerned with ameliorating this fissure.
Interpreters. They explain, clarify, expound on the teachings of the Buddha. They make it all make sense. They tend to be benign. They value description over analysis, since the latter, done well, veers toward critique.
Post-traditionalists. Like traditionalists, they uphold the values gleaned from the Asian dispensation of Buddhism. However, they seek a renovation of the archaisms and (certain) superstitions favored by their Asian patriarchs. They do not want a new house, only a freshly painted one with, perhaps, a modern kitchen.
Secularists. They hold the values of modern scientific methodology, such as evidence-based claims, critical thinking, rigorous debate, and the coruscating light of reason. While respecting tradition, they seek a contemporary application.
Traditionalists. They are committed to the forms–doctrines, practices, beliefs, etc.– that are preserved in Asian institutional structures. Some of these structures are of ancient or medieval origin, some are modern. They espouse pre-scientific worldviews. They axiomatically adhere to archaic cosmologies. They often believe in a world animated by spirits and hidden forces. They know no other possibility.
True Believers. They raise the (western) Buddhist banner. They heart Buddhism, though “Buddhism” is always proscribed by their particular school. Some true believers, of course, literally love all things Buddhists. This person, I think, is a peculiarly recent, North American type. They subscribe to some version of “One Dharma,” and are desirous of finding unity in diversity.
Each of these categories is easily coupled with others. For instance, comparative work may be done with an apologetic intent; interpretive work, in the search for new constructions. Someone may be doing three or four things at once. An awareness of variegated strategies and intentions will prevent us fro, too quickly pigeonholing an author, teacher, etc.